Email newsletters are excellent marketing tools. But creating quality newsletters that grab the reader's attention takes work.

As your subscriptions grow, getting readers to open your newsletter in crowded inboxes is a constant challenge.

You may already have a few tactics that you employ in nudging readers to open the newsletter; now's the time to add a few more. Let's pool our ideas and increase open rates for everyone! What are effective ways for increasing email newsletter open rates?

Already have a high open rate? We hope you share your secrets. If you don't have a newsletter or any suggestions to share, perhaps you have a situation needing a few hundred thousand brains to generate ideas. If so, 100,000 "MarketingProfs Today" readers are ready to deliver their thoughts to help resolve your problem. Submit your dilemma and receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

This Week's Dilemma

Open me, I want your attention!

We've tried many tactics to nudge readers to open our email newsletter. But we think we can do a lot better. What are the one or two top ideas for increasing my e-newsletter open rates? What are the most effective ways to increase e-newsletter open rates?

—Dylan, Marketing Rep

Previous Dilemma

Help! I'm in over my head.

I have worked in accounts all my life. My company, a small ISP, had a promotional campaign last year and I was asked to help coordinate it. My bosses liked my input so much that one year later I'm promoted to Marketing Rep. Now, this is a new area for me and I must admit it bothers my confidence as to what kind of a job I can do with it. I'm not even sure where to start. I'm trying to enroll in a college to do a degree in marketing. But the work starts now. The competition in providing Internet access is stiff and we only provide dial up access. What should be my first approach, my strategy for taking on this new position? How do I learn the basic stuff that governs marketing—and get the tools I need to excel in my new job?

—Jack, Marketing Rep

Summary of Advice Received

First, everyone says, "Congratulations on the promotion, Jack!" Enjoy it and avoid questioning it. Obviously, you're doing something right. It's time for you to go to the next level, and readers provide five ways of going about this:

  1. Expand on your strengths. 
  2. Know your customers. 
  3. Do your research. 
  4. Use resources to increase your knowledge. 
  5. Follow the marketing process.

1. Expand on your strengths

Jack, since you have earned the promotion, focus on the reasons why you have been promoted. A reader encourages taking the position with confidence:

You were chosen for a reason, so try to probe what that reason(s) was/were. Then, approach your strategy that way. For example, let's say that you were chosen because you are innovative. Try to continue to come up with new ideas that can make the company money.

Start the new job with what you do best, and build from there.

2. Know your customers

Ah, the old marketing mantra, "Know thy customer," is important. Joshua I. Walters advises you to stop and look at your customers:

You have already shared doubts in your company and this is a hard obstacle to overcome. You and the employees of your company must be customer number one. Why is dial-up an excellent alternative to high-priced broadband, DSL or cable Internet? Going back to school will not answer this problem or the next one that comes up.

Start at the basics. Know your product, know your target audience, and know what its needs are. Even if you please your current boss with some great ideas, that impression will fade if results are not produced. After planning your campaign and kicking it off, begin looking for ways to tweak it to make it better. These tweaks should be implemented along the way. If you do not stop "updating" the campaign, you will discover robust and profitable growth. Good luck!

3. Do your research

Knowledge: you can never have too much of it. What you do with this knowledge makes a difference. Justin Ishoy encourages researching:

Stay positive. They moved you up because of your ideas and opinions. You should be proud, but at the same time impress them again. I like to say: RESEARCH. With the position the company is in with ISP; research everything so you can market the company. Find what the company could offer that no other company does (dial up or high speed). Setting the company apart from the competition is the most impressive challenge.

The competition has Web sites, so study them. See what they don't offer and capitalize on them.

4. Use resources to increase your knowledge

A majority of the readers suggest not worrying about attending classes, but you can never have too much education. Try alternative ways to educate yourself. Kristian Vanberg, consultant with Fifth Paradigm, offers this:

Buy Philip Kotler's Principles of Marketing, commonly accepted as the textbook on marketing. Also look up an online MBA curriculum in basic marketing. Reading the book and the MBA curriculum will help you understand what the key principles and theories of marketing are. Then make sure to understand that what you just read was theory—it is NOT what will determine whether you are a successful rep or not.

Your most valuable tools are your common sense and a good mentor, as well as online resources on marketing (, including specialized literature on online marketing (, useful in your industry. Finally, copy what your best competitors/peers do.

Tim Binford, a manager at Lowe's Companies, says:

Remember your success at the previous assignment. Your managers must have seen potential in you. This is good. They want you to succeed, so they should understand that you may need a mentor as you learn the new job. Find someone in your company or in the field by using your network of friends, family, colleagues and alumni.

5. Follow the marketing process

Understanding the marketing process will give you direction and show you what to do next, so you don't have to stare at a blank slate. Tim Binford says the basics of marketing are similar to the basics of selling. He lists the steps:

  1. Identify the key strengths your product has currently (and in the foreseeable future) relative to your competition.

  2. Identify which market segment is most likely to need or want your product.

  3. Target the portion of the segment most likely to be willing to afford your product (especially those whose needs fit your strengths best).

  4. Identify how to get to the decision makers (your sales force and marketing department should have some data and insights regarding this).

  5. Create a clear, compelling, and concise value statement and make it your brand identity.

Support that brand identity in everything your company says and does. Your clients, especially those who are your best customers, should be a good source for these insights. The WIIFM (what's in it for me [the client]?) approach works well.

By finding your clients' key needs and being the provider of a solution that best fits those needs, you will win their loyalty and referral business. Once you have their business, never stop checking back with your clients to be sure that you haven't missed a changing need they may be experiencing, or someone else may steal them away.

Know your audience, do your research, and you will succeed in your new position.

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.